The world of publishing and creative has been challenged by the dawn of the online publishing model.
You are a publisher if you have a website, if you have a blog, if you tweet, if you write a Facebook post, if you respond in forums or participate in discussion groups. You are publishing content and to get the best action or reaction out of that content, you need a strategy.
Magazine and newspapers structure their content by category: features, opinion, breaking news, video. Then by channels they will publish the content, by daily broadsheet, weekend glossies online, etc. A content strategy is developed in the same way for web, mobile, and social media.
Key tasks in creating the content plan
1. What content do you have now?
Before you look at what you need, you need to ask yourself, what content have you already got? When you start looking it is amazing how much valuable content we all have stored on our computers that can be used to share our expertise, add value and to collaborate with.
Firstly, check it is up to date and ensure that now is the correct time to use it. Do try to find as much content as you can. Less is often more when it comes to great nuggets of information or experiences.
Next, check out your web analytics to see what areas of your current content is most popular. Use this information as the basis for your content plan.
2. Messaging and tone
Figure out if you want to be formal or less formal, writing in the first person. A lot of content has shifted to short form and is now driven by digital story-telling videos, short texts or images from a person. That said, you need to be sure how you want to present your business, a more formal approach maybe still required in your field.
Focus on one message, your USP (useful selling point) and build your messages out from there. The initial use of a listing format of the points you are trying to get across can really help you to focus.
Be clear, concise, up to date and focus on the value exchange in the communication that will drive a business outcome.
3. Set your policy and channel schedule
If you are going to invite staff to contribute or third party contributors to participate, you must have your ground rules in place.
- Any disclaimers to protect you from their personal opinion
- Approval processes
- Ownership of content
- Style guidelines
Set up an editorial schedule. (Excel/Google Docs – anything you find easy. Don’t over-complicate!) Plan out what content and what channel it will be published in. Much like my earlier analogy with the newspaper model. Once done, the content can be managed across all channels through a popular content management application like Hootsuite.
4. How can I create content when I already have no time?
Involve other collaborators, peers and your staff. It doesn’t have to all land on you. Once you have done the basics above, you have set your plan in place and given a brief to other contributors, you are well on your way. The initial set up will take time, but thereafter a good content manager or part-time specialist can run it.
5. I’m a solo business operator. Do I really need a content strategy?
Having a content strategy will do more of the work for you! It will make you look larger than you are by maximising your online presence, increase ROI and improve SEO.
6. I work in a larger organisation. How do I justify a content strategy to my boss?
Content is gold. It can reach audiences and generate an action. Content is measurable against an action, for example, by tracking web analytics. The other beauty is you can adapt and optimise the content as you watch the reaction to your users on the analytics tracking. In addition to this, if you get it right your SEO budget will soon be optimised.
7. I am still struggling with all of this. Where do I turn?
If you have budget to invest in a digital strategy or campaign, you are well advised to direct a good proportion of your budget to content strategy. It is more important than in-depth design. Usability (experiential) and content are in my opinion the two single most important aspects to get a web or mobile presence right.
If you are a small or solo business and are struggling with digital, there are some amazing LinkedIn small business groups, full of people who will help you in a more personal way, rather than trying to follow an online editorial or guide. Also look closer to home. Most of us know an avid blogger these days (it might be your teenage son upstairs!). Ask for their help. Once you have your plan and editorial structure in place it becomes good fun.
Fi Bendall is the managing director of digital and interactive consultancy company Bendalls Group. With over 20 years’ experience, Bendall has worked with global brands including BBC and Virgin, and is an expert in how businesses can approach strategy in the digital world. You can follow her on Twitter at @FiBendall, and can contact her through Bendalls Group.